ECCLESIASTES TRANSLATION SERIES (6): “to put the world in their heart” (Eccl 3:11)

*note: No English versions of (3) to (5) in the series is available as those posts deal with problems with Korean translations.


The text of Ecclesiastes 3:11 is enigmatic, not just because the sentence itself is ambiguous but also because English translations render the sentence quite differently as if they translate the different words.

Continue reading “ECCLESIASTES TRANSLATION SERIES (6): “to put the world in their heart” (Eccl 3:11)”


  • In the previous post, I indicated that “the Preacher” is better designated as “Qohelet.” So I will call the main speaker of the text “Qohelet,” but it seems more convenient to call the title of the text Ecclesiastes for the sake of convenience.

A Grammatical Issue

Image by Kollakolla from Pixabay

This featured phrase “vanity of vanities” (הבל הבלים habel habalim) that Qohelet repeatedly cries out is considered to be a Hebrew expression of the superlative, which is structured as “~ of ~.” But its exact wording is not typical. Normally, the superlative form is <singular noun + definite article + plural noun>. For example, <king + the kings> is translated as “king of kings,” meaning the highest king. (Note: Hebrew simply juxtaposes two nouns without a possessive preposition to form a possessive phrase.) By the same token, if the phrase “vanity of vanities” is the superlative, we would expect <vanity + the + vanities>, but the article is missed here. That is, this expression might not be superlative.

Continue reading “ECCLESIASTES TRANSLATION SERIES (2): Vanity of vanities”

Ecclesiastes Translation Series (1): The Preacher, Ecclesiastes


For many reasons, Ecclesiastes is a difficult text to translate. For instance, the designation for the main speaker of the text, “the Preacher,” ordinarily indicates leaders in local churches, whose job includes supervising everything in the church, especially conducting worship services and giving sermons. The main speaker of Ecclesiastes has nothing to do with such a person. Perhaps one of the most memorable expressions in the Bible, “vanity of vanities,” is another example that demonstrates why Ecclesiastes is difficult to translate. Its Hebrew words use הבל(hevel/hebel); its literal meaning is “breath,” “vapor,” and the like. The term “vanity” carries only the figurative force of the original, restricting the word’s multivalency. These words require explanations why such translations happened, what the problems are, and what the alternatives can be. In fact, Ecclesiastes is permeated with such issues. So in this translation series, I will introduce translation issues in Ecclesiastes and explain them or suggest alternatives.

Continue reading “Ecclesiastes Translation Series (1): The Preacher, Ecclesiastes”